Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl Brewer responds to KASB education questionnaire

Here are the responses to the KASB education questionnaire from Carl Brewer, a Democratic candidate for governor.

  1. If elected, what would be your top education priorities?

All Kansans are entitled to a high quality public education that is supported by an adequate and equitable funding formula – regardless of their geographic location or life circumstances. But beyond that, we need to train and equip our young people with the skills necessary in the 21st century. I support the Kansas Department of Education’s vision as developed in their Kansans Can program: Social-emotional growth measured locally; kindergarten readiness; an individual plan of study based on career interest; high school graduation; college, post-secondary and career readiness and success.

  1. What attributes or experiences do you bring to the table when it comes to helping improve education in Kansas?

As a former mayor of the largest city in Kansas, I understand the impact of how issues affecting a family or community can impact a student’s success at school. There is a direct connection between stability at home and students being ready to learn. If a student is hungry, tired or stressed from an unstable home environment due to poverty, drugs, violence or other mental health issues, that student will struggle to keep up with his or her peers. I will support funding for programs that address issues facing families such as WIC, SNAP, expanding Medicaid and counseling and strengthening the Department for Children and Families.

Secondly, I will support programs that try to address the inequalities which some children face. I support school breakfast and lunch programs, providing school counselors and giving children the additional help they need. Programs like Head Start and Parents As Teachers play a critical role in helping children be ready to start kindergarten in both academic and social ways. As mayor, I saw the impact these programs had, not only on the student, but on the family as well.

  1. As you have been campaigning, what do voters say about public education in Kansas?

Many voters are worried about the school system where they are sending their children –will they receive a well-rounded education that includes athletics and music, is the school day too long, will they be ready to go to college, are classes too large and are children safe in the classroom.

Most people want to see more funding go to teachers and their local school system. They understand that a good local school is the backbone of a strong community.

  1. KASB believes that in school finance, the Kansas Constitution provides the necessary and appropriate checks and balances between co-equal branches of government that have served Kansas students well. Do you support or oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the judicial branch from considering disputes over what is considered adequate funding of public schools?

I oppose this proposed constitutional amendment to tie the hands of the Kansas courts from reviewing school funding and any other legal or political attempt to condemn Kansas judges or limit their authority over schools and school funding. Courts play a critical, non-partisan role in interpreting the Kansas constitution and ensuring rights to all people.

  1. KASB believes that school finance must provide adequate and equitable funding as required by the Kansas Constitution. How will you ensure that public schools are adequately funded?

I will support increased funding through the state budget to meet targeted education goals. I will support Medicaid expansion that will bring additional dollars into the state to provide for the health of families. I support expanding tax revenue for Kansas by legalizing and taxing marijuana. I also have a record of expanding foreign trade as I was part of a team that opened a trade office in China and brought $6,800,000 by 2016 to the Wichita- South Central region. I will expand trade for the state by developing a similar plan. Finally, we will attract businesses and prevent young talent from leaving the state by reversing our discriminatory policies that make Kansas an unwelcome place for many people to live.

  1. Do you support the Kansans Can vision of the State Board of Education and will that require more funding to achieve, and if so, how should the revenue be raised?

As I mentioned above, I do support the Kansas Can vision. I believe it is a program that will improve education in Kansas for all young people. I also discussed in my answer to question 5 how I plan to improve the economy and increase revenue for the state budget. While current revenue reports are promising, we need to continue to take bold steps to ensure the quality of life in Kansas for the next generation.

  1. What can the state do to help schools be safer and what should schools do to become safer?

When I first joined the Kansas Army National Guard at age 20, I was trained to safely use different kinds of high-powered automatic weapons. Years later as a sergeant and captain in the Reserves, I trained hundreds of our soldiers to use these powerful weapons. Our military has the most advanced firearms in the world, but I know how easily they can be misused or accidentally discharged, and how fast they can be fired with devastating results.

I’ve also led a large city and know that it only takes a few seconds to shatter lives. I cannot count the number of times when as mayor of Wichita, I tried to console a grieving family who lost a loved one in a senseless gun-related death.

Our country has witnessed all too frequently the use of military-style weapons to maim, murder and destroy innocent life. We must have a national conversation now that objectively analyzes how to reduce the lethality of the weapons used and the frequency of these massacres. Guns don’t kill people, but they make it very easy — especially when untrained and unvetted citizens can legally acquire them, along with large-capacity banana clips and drum magazines to feed them and bump stocks, which turn rifles into automatic weapons.

As governor, I will support and sign a state law banning the sale of bump stocks. I will also support and sign a law banning the sale or use in Kansas of bullet-storage devices that hold more than 15 rounds.

As governor, I will support and sign a law repealing permission to carry weapons onto college campuses.

As governor, I will support additional resources for mental health programs, including expanding Medicaid, with the goal of keeping Kansans safe.

As governor, I will support universal background checks on every purchase of a firearm in Kansas, with the sole exception of the inheritance or gifting of firearms within a family.

As governor, I will support and sign a law that repeals the massive unfunded mandate from Kansas legislators in 2014 that required local governments — including small city or county governments without large tax bases — to allow carrying weapons inside their public buildings unless they wish to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for full-time security personnel and metal detectors. In Wichita in 2014, it was estimated that it could cost $14 million each and every year to restrict firearms in 107 city-owned buildings. This law must be repealed, unless the Kansas Legislature wishes to put money where its mandates are.

As a retired member of our military, I fully understand the role powerful high-tech weapons play in keeping this country safe. I own firearms and have used them to hunt deer and upland game birds for most of my life. I spent many years as a youth on my grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma, and understand that firearms are used by many rural families for protection from rattlesnakes and rabies-infected animals, and to put meat on the table. I will always honor our Kansas hunting and firearm ownership traditions. But we must come together to find responsible solutions to greatly reduce the incidence of these massacres.

We must also be vigilant in our efforts to protect our law enforcement officers from devastating firepower that comes too easily into the hands of people who can’t be trusted to obey the law. We deserve to live in a nation that is free from fear that our children and grandchildren will be mercilessly attacked in their classrooms, that we will have to shield our coworkers from a stream of bullets, and that we are unsafe when we bow our heads in our places of worship.

  1. The Kansas Constitution says public schools are to be maintained, developed and operated by locally elected school boards. Do you believe most decisions about operating schools should be made at the local level? How would you decide when the state, rather than local boards, should be in control?

As a former mayor of the largest city in Kansas and former president of the Kansas League of Municipalities, I saw how some laws made by the federal or state government have unintended consequences and costs for local government. I firmly believe we must give more authority to local governments who know best how to address the needs for their community.

  1. What needs to be done to increase the number of teachers, especially in hard to fill positions, such as math, science and special education, in addition to increasing the number of counselors and school psychologists?

We need to create a culture that respects instead of attacks teachers. We need to better pay and fund their benefit programs. We need to fund the resources they need in the classroom to give them a quality education. We need to ensure resources for special education, gifted programs and mental health professionals that help students in the public school system.

  1. KASB believes that public funding of private education can harm public education because private schools are not required to accept and educate all students on the same basis as public schools. What is your position on the state program that provides tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to scholarships that allow certain low-incomes students attend private schools?

I oppose all efforts to use public funds to send Kansas students to private schools. That includes school vouchers and tax credits to businesses or individuals who donate to scholarships to private schools. Using tax dollars (or tax credits) to put a select few into a private school only continues the current problem of unequal and inadequate funding to Kansas schools as a whole.

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